On Nov. 16, world-renowned Pakistani musician and UN goodwill ambassador Salman Ahmad put on a concert in the Student Union theater, hosted by the International Student Council (ISC) and International Student Affairs Office (ISAO). The event was co-sponsored by Student Government Association (SGA). Expressing inspiring messages such as the importance of diversity, Ahmad insisted on bringing the crowd together through his music. The audience reflected a wide range of cultures and ethnicities, even offering various Middle-Eastern food samples before the concert.
Ahmad is a long-time member of the popular band Junoon, South Asia’s longest lasting rock band. Ahmad spreads inspiration to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Asia as a Goodwill Ambassador. However, his main message during the concert was to embrace diversity and the differences of people around us. Before his opening song, he explained the concept of Sufi devotional music called Qawwali. The performer and the audience are to sing together, embracing the diversity of everyone involved.
Sporting a 12-string guitar, Ahmad performed each of his songs with passion and ease. Several audience members were already familiar with Junoon’s material, so he urged them to sing along. He did a call-and-answer scenario; he would sing a portion of the song, and then urge the audience to sing it back. At first, many appeared apprehensive, timidly singing back. Eventually, however, Ahmad’s optimistic attitude permeated the crowd and their voices chimed above the guitar.
Ahmad suggested that the audience members clear their heads of all thoughts when listening to his songs. “When you listen with the heart, when you see with the heart, all of the masks fall down,” Ahmad said.
He also explained the most important aspect of creating music. “It’s the three ‘c’s: communication, compassion, and out of communication and compassion comes creativity,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad often provided explanations for the purpose of each song he performed, or the message behind it. For one, he explained the history of a South Asian poet who questioned rituals at the mosque, wondering “who am I?” He cited a few lines from the song, such as “I have no pagan ways. I am not pure. I am not vile.” These lines identified the purpose of the song, suggesting that we all face identity issues, regardless of one’s faith.
“By denying everything we find out the question we all ask ourselves: who am I?” Ahmad said.
During an uplifting tune, Ahmad said, “If you feel like whirling or dancing, this is the song to do it.” Several audience members participated in clapping and dancing in the theatre’s walkway as a result.
“Einstein said that all scientists are artists. He came up with the theory of relativity and he said it came through intuition. It was only through imagination that he was able to figure out the theory of relativity,” Ahmad said as he reiterated the importance of imagination and creativity. “The best musician to embrace diversity was John Lennon. When I was growing up, I was a big Beatles fan. This song you should know, because it’s all about imagination,” he said before performing a cover of “Imagine” by The Beatles.
At the end of the evening, Ahmad thanked the crowd for its participation.